CATLIN, George (1796-1872). Original ink and watercolor drawing signed ("G. Catlin"), depicting a young Ponca Indian chief, standing, clad in a buffalo robe, eagle feathers in his hair, decorated teepees in the background, within a delicate surround of wildflowers and leafy sprays, on pale blue paper. [With:] CATLIN. Autograph manuscript description of the drawing, signed ("Geo. Catlin"), comprising some 125 words. [England, 1850-1865].
Catlin's drawing and explanatory note occupy facing pages in the album of Elizabeth H. Rolleston of Leamington. Her album contains 14 other pencil and watercolor drawings, 12 pages of verse ("Lines for the Young" etc), and seven prints or chromolithograph decorations. The sheets measure 9 x 7¾ in., many colored pages have decorative embossing. Bound in dark green morocco, gilt edges (Spine lost, corners rubbed, but internally in very fresh condition.).
CATLIN'S DRAWING OF A YOUNG PONCA CHIEF. A delicately rendered drawing with Catlin's playful explanation, describing an event he had personally observed. He recounts that "...this proud young Prince of 18" had distinguished himself "on the day when his Father the Puncah Chief had abdicated in his favor," by incurring "the (perhaps) difficult task of managing four pretty young wives, all of whom he wedded at the same time, in the presence of the Author and all the Puncah Tribe." Catlin elaborates on the protocol of the event, and writes that the young chief was singled out for "great Medicine as long as he lived, for marrying four wives at the same instant," and was acclaimed "a Medicine Chief: a double honour," especially unusual "in those societies where distinguished honours are few...."
Catlin describes this same multiple marriage in great detail in Letter 26, written from the "Mouth of Teton River, Upper Missouri," in Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of North American Indians (London, 1844).